Bonnie Thom is the  director for the Respect Life office. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)

Recently a new movie titled Unplanned was released in theaters. It is a story about Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, who one day saw the ultrasound image of a baby during a vacuum aspiration procedure.

I attended the movie’s premier opening in the Duluth area, which was sponsored by 40 Days for Life. I found the movie to be very powerful and eye-opening in many regards. I knew attending this movie would stir a lot of emotion and bring about a great amount of heartbreak; however, I have to admit I left the theater thinking I saw some things I will never be able to “unsee,” and perhaps that is a good thing? Perhaps it is God’s way of giving me a greater sense of compassion for yet another population of people.

A social worker by profession, I have worked with various populations of people in varying situations, and seeing their struggle often opens my eyes to the reality of their pain and suffering. Having been raised in the Catholic faith, I knew the horrible injustice of abortion. Volunteering and working in the area of Respect Life, I could understand the hurt and emptiness it leaves in the lives of those who experience abortion. The impact of seeing the details of the industry has left a deeper understanding of the pain and far-reaching effects of abortion.

This issue is a difficult one to talk about, comprehend, and at times to truly understand the depth of pain, sorrow, and agony in which so many are suffering. Not only are the most innocent denied their right to live, but the mothers, and often the fathers, siblings and grandparents are suffering as well. The people in the abortion industry, whether they are aware of the desensitization of the dignity of life or not, are also being hurt. In the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II states “we must all foster: a concern to make unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed society.”

There is a scene in the beginning of the movie where it shows the contrast between people who protest abortion with anger and condemnation, and people who protest with peace and prayer. Our Catholic faith is a faith of love and mercy. As we look upon our Lord who suffered and died on the cross, we must remember he died for our sins. He has paid the price so we would not need to suffer from our sins.

Often, we can be filled with grief or anger and can’t understand the loss of a life that is taken from us, whether by accident, disease, natural death or abortion. A life created in the image and likeness of God with dignity and purpose is now someone whose purpose in this life will go unfulfilled.

Throughout the diocese, we have people praying the rosary for the unborn, Day of Remembrance and Healing for the Loss of a Child, Spiritual Adoption Programs, Cemetery of the Innocents, and 40 Days for Life activities, which provide opportunity for both personal healing and healing and awareness in our society.

Another loss we are left with is a big part of the life of the mother as well. Women and young girls do not “want” an abortion. The movie portrays girls suffering from adverse physical reactions, such as immediate physical post-abortion recovery from a vacuum aspiration procedure, and those lasting eight weeks from a drug-induced abortion. There is so much healing that needs to be addressed.

Young women are having an abortion due to the fear and anxiety created by a society that is telling them their future will be ruined by having a child, that an unplanned pregnancy is embarrassing or inconvenient, or that having a career is more important, prestigious, or desirable than having children. These attitudes are leaving mothers with feelings of hopelessness, as if the choice is an either/or choice. In reality, studies show there is an increased risk of suicidal ideation, and an increased risk of major depression associated with abortion. (Fergusson et al., 2006, 2008) Having an abortion is something no woman will forget.

The Office of Respect Life has resources for those who are suffering or anyone who feels called to the pro-life ministry. Contact Bonita Thom at or 715-394-0206.